Reviews

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Nietzsche in the Streets

Ruud Kaulingfreks


Reviewing I Am Not A Man, I Am Dynamite! Friedrich Nietzsche and the Anarchist Tradition

originally published in ephemera 5.4 (November 2005)



When is an anarchist a real anarchist? When his thoughts are in line with the teachings of Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin and the like? When he engages in direct political action behind a black flag? Or when his thoughts are clearly libertarian? Anarchism has always struggled with the impossibility of becoming a movement. In a sense it fits Groucho Marx’s famous paradox of not wanting to become a member of a club who would like to accept him as a member. By its own principles, becoming an anarchist is a kind of paradox - that is as long as one thinks in terms of movements or affiliations. Libertarianism, freedom for man to choose his own rules (and definitely not the so-called democratic freedom for man to accepts his ruler) and be master of his own destiny in a society without private ownership goes against affiliation. The struggle against all forms of authority and the permanent revolt against institutions that coerce freedom make it quite difficult – if not impossible - to define somebody as an anarchist. In a sense the last thing an anarchist accepts is being pinned down as such. He will probably deny it.

Does a philosopher who preaches the transvaluation of all values, who defines mankind as a sick animal in need of a herd, and as full of resentment because he is not able to live by himself qualify as an anarchist? Can a philosopher that writes in almost every line about the old adagio “ni dieu ni maitre” (nor god nor master) and pleads for a morality of laughing and mocking at all moral precepts to the point of attacking social movements all together still be considered a libertarian? Would this thinker who wanted us to live and dance and not to be preoccupied with the oughts and don’ts but who was realistic enough to realize that this is an impossible task to ask from this weak animal called man so he had to invent a new name for it: Overman, be pleased with the qualification anarchist? Can we still ask the question if the writer of Zarathrustra, the preacher of the strong will, of living beyond moral precepts, of being able to invent ones own life and not to be submissive to anything at all, the most libertarian of all philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche, is an anarchist?

Makhno writes:

"Anarchist Modernism"

Neala Schleuning, Social Anarchism

Reviewing Allen Antliff, Anarchist Modernism:
Art, Politics, and the First American Avant-Garde


Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Allen Antliff has written a rich and engaging book exploring early twentieth
century American art and politics from an anarchist perspective. The study
focuses on the linkages between American modernism and American
individualist anarchist theory. Traditionally, art historians portray
modernism — including the various styles known as expressionism, cubism,
futurism, Dadaism, and surrealism — as a European phenomenon, but Antliff
highlights the unique "American" aspects of modernism.

"James Burnham, Modern Machiavellian"

Paul Mattick


Reviewing James Bumham, The Machiavellians

John Day Company, New York, 1943. (270 pp.)

James Burnham's second attempt*) to purge himself of the misunderstood Marxism of his earlier years is slightly more successful than his first effort, The Managerial Revolution. In the latter book, he still tried to explain the problem of power in economic terms, although no longer from the social point of view of Marx but from that of the technocrats. Nevertheless, he insisted that not the politicians, but those who control the means of production directly, are the real rulers of society. In the present book he finds that in addition to the economic there are several other modes of analyzing events, that one can reach approximately the same conclusions about history from any number of quite different approaches. This, of course, does not reconcile his former opinion that power must be explained in technical-economic terms — that economics is the determinative of politics — with his present Machiavellian point of view, which deals with the struggle for power in purely political terms.


Burnham begins his exposition of power politics with Dante in order to demonstrate what the Machiavellians are not. In Dante's writing he discovers a divorce between its formal and its real meaning. Although the real meaning is there, it is rendered irresponsible since it is not subject to open and deliberate intellectual control. High-minded words of formal meaning are used to arouse passion, prejudice and sentimentality in favor of disguised real aims. This method cannot serve the truth, yet throughout history and down to the present it is consistently used to deceive people in the interests of the mighty.

The Truth About Networks

Between the total hell of networked, salaried labor and the promises of the
commons

by Trebor Scholz

In short succession the first two in a series of publications called "DATA
browser" were just released. Both start out with historical texts to search for
effective contemporary models of cultural production that merge
socio-technological with artistic critique. "DATA browser 01" takes Theodor
Adorno's and Max Horkheimer's notion of the culture industry (1944) as a departing
point. "DATA browser 02" links to Walter Benjamin's essay "The Author as Producer"
(1934). Let's start with Brian Holmes' essay "The Flexible Personality," which
contributes a rare meditation on today's network society and sketches out an
intellectual history of anti-systemic movements that becomes the critical backdrop
for both volumes of "DATA browser." Here, the Paris-based art critic, activist,
and translator Holmes leads us into a social landscape of total network hell.
Together with the social theorist Maurizio Lazzarato, Holmes is not on board when
it comes to the techno-utopian celebration of the networked life style. Lazzarato
thinks that new networked techniques are even more totalitarian than the assembly
line. Brian Holmes includes a reference to Adorno's notion of the authoritarian
personality (1950), which is defined by its rigid conventionalism, submission to
authority, opposition to everything subjective, stereotypy, an emphasis on power
and toughness, destructiveness and cynicism, and an exaggerated concern with
sexual scandal. Holmes criticism of networked labor is sharp - he argues that
distributed, casualized labor is based on the ruthless pleasure of exploitation
and soft coercion that the laptop as portable instrument of control affords. The
Italian philosopher Paolo Virno places questions about idleness, leisure and the
refusal to work at the center of the discussion about contemporary production.

The Scandal of the Word “Class”:

A Review of David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford UP,
2005)

David Harvey's new book has four faces on its cover: Reagan, Thatcher,
Pinochet and Deng Xiaoping. It makes one self-evident, yet strangely
scandalous assertion: the rise of neoliberal economics since the late 1970s
— or more precisely, since the bankruptcy of New York City and the
dictatorship in Chile — is the centerpiece of a deliberate project to
restore upper-class power. True to its title, the book presents a concise
but extremely well-documented economic history of the last three decades,
encompassing not only the usual G-7 countries but the entire world, with a
particular emphasis on the US and capitalist China.


It identifies
structural trends of neoliberal governance that, as the book nears
conclusion, serve equally to explicate the present crisis, both of the
global economy and of interstate relations. And finally it asks the
political question of how resurgent upper-class power can successfully be
opposed. Here is where the most benefit could be gained by examining the
aura of scandal that surrounds its central thesis.

The Truth About Networks

Trebor Scholz

Between the total hell of networked, salaried labor and the promises of the
commons

In short succession the first two in a series of publications called "DATA
browser" were just released. Both start out with historical texts to search
for effective contemporary models of cultural production that merge
socio-technological with artistic critique.

"DATA browser 01" takes Theodor
Adorno's and Max Horkheimer's notion of the culture industry (1944) as a
departing point. "DATA browser 02" links to Walter Benjamin's essay "The
Author as Producer" (1934).

Let's start with Brian Holmes' essay "The
Flexible Personality," which contributes a rare meditation on today's
network society and sketches out an intellectual history of anti-systemic
movements that becomes the critical backdrop for both volumes of "DATA
browser." Here, the Paris-based art critic, activist, and translator Holmes
leads us into a social landscape of total network hell. Together with the
social theorist Maurizio Lazzarato, Holmes is not on board when it comes to
the techno-utopian celebration of the networked life style. Lazzarato thinks
that new networked techniques are even more totalitarian than the assembly
line. Brian Holmes includes a reference to Adorno's notion of the
authoritarian personality (1950), which is defined by its rigid
conventionalism, submission to authority, opposition to everything
subjective, stereotypy, an emphasis on power and toughness, destructiveness
and cynicism, and an exaggerated concern with sexual scandal. Holmes'
criticism of networked labor is sharp — he argues that distributed,
casualized labor is based on the ruthless pleasure of exploitation and soft
coercion that the laptop as portable instrument of control affords.

"Object a As Inherent Limit to Capitalism:

On Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri"

Slavoj Zizek

What makes Empire and Multitude such a refreshing reading (clearly the definitive exercises in Deleuzian politics) is that we are dealing with books which refer to and function as the moment of theoretical reflection of — one is almost tempted to say: are embedded in — an actual global movement of anti-capitalist resistance: one can sense, behind the written lines, the smells and sounds of Seattle, Genoa and Zapatistas. So their theoretical limitation is simultaneously the limitation of the actual movement.


Hardt's and Negri's basic move, an act which is by no means ideologically neutral (and, incidentally, which is totally foreign to their philosophical paradigm, Deleuze!), is to identify (to name) "democracy" as the common denominator of all today's emancipatory movements: "The common currency that runs throughout so many struggles and movements for liberation across the world today — at local, regional, and global levels — is the desire for democracy."1 Far from standing for a utopian dream, democracy is "the only answer to the vexing questions of our day, /.../ the only way out of our state of perpetual conflict and war."2 Not only is democracy inscribed into the present antagonisms as an immanent telos of their resolution; even more, today, the rise of the multitude in the heart of capitalism "makes democracy possible for the first time"3 Till now, democracy was constrained by the form of the One, of the sovereign state power; "absolute democracy" ("the rule of everyone by everyone, a democracy without qualifiers, without ifs or buts,"4 only becomes possible when "the multitude is finally able to rule itself."5


The Third Crusade

New Left Review

Richard Gott on Anthony Seldon, Blair. As ‘Iraq’ joins ‘Munich’ and ‘Suez’ in the lexicon of British foreign-policy disasters, does the Labour Prime Minister have his own neo-imperial programme?

Elections in Britain on 5 May 2005 brought a third victory to Tony Blair’s New Labour party, though with a much reduced majority in parliament, only 35 per cent of the popular vote, and barely a fifth of the overall electorate—the lowest percentage secured by any governing party in recent European history. ‘When regimes are based on minority rule, they lose legitimacy’, Blair had told an audience at the Chicago Economic Club in April 1999. He was thinking at the time of the former Yugoslavia of Slobodan Miloševic´ and of apartheid South Africa, but his warning could now be applied to his own regime. More people abstained from voting in May 2005 than voted Labour. Disgust, rather than apathy, was the root cause of the abstention.

Widely celebrated as the first, ‘historic’ occasion on which a Labour government had won three elections in a row, the Blairite success might more relevantly be described as the sixth victory of a British government operating under Thatcherite principles since Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister in 1979. ‘Almost everything Blair has done personally—in education, health, law and order and Northern Ireland—has also been an extension of Conservative policy between 1979 and 1997’, argues Anthony Seldon in his exhaustive study, Blair, the largest and most useful of the raft of recently published biographies, most of which have been hagiographic but some more critical. Seldon’s charge is difficult to refute, and Blair’s relatively meagre showing in the election of 2005 had much to do with the disillusion of traditional Labour voters, finally obliged to admit that their party had been captured by the proponents of an alien ideology.

"Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty:

A Political Review"

George Caffentzis

"At length the term-day, the fatal Martinmas, arrived, and violent measures of ejection were resorted to. A strong posse of peace-officers, sufficient to render all resistance vain, charged the inhabitants to depart by noon; and as they did not obey, the officers, in terms of their warrant, proceeded to unroof the cottages, and pull down the wretched doors and windows, — a summary and effectual mode of ejection, still practiced in some remote parts of Scotland, when a tenant proves refractory."
— Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering or The Astrologer (1829)

Neoliberal globalization entered into its first major crisis seven summers ago, with the so-called “Asian Financial Crisis.” Since then the ideological power of this form of capitalism has been slowly ebbing. The once attractive image of the creative powers of humanity finally being brought together in the process of globalization for the “general welfare” by borderless transfers of money, capital and labor at the speed of light now seems to be a nostalgic relic.

Since 1997, along with the continuing economic crises and stagnation of Europe, South America, and Africa, neoliberal globalization has faced two major ideological reversals. The first reversal is associated with a city (Seattle) and the second with a date (September 11, 2001).

"Parecon and the Nature of Reformism"

Wayne Price, Anarkismo.net

Reviewing

Robin Hahnel, Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation.
NY/ London: Routledge, 2005

The second most important problem for anticapitalist radicals is how to get from here to there; that is, how to get from a capitalist society to a good society. The first problem is where do we want to go — what we mean by a good, noncapitalist, society. Working together with Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel has spent years on this first problem, developing a model of what a good society might be like, or at least how its economy might work. In a series of books and essays (e.g., Albert 2000, 2005; Albert & Hahnel 1983, 1991), they have thought out how an economy might function which is managed by its people rather than by either private capitalists or bureaucrats — an economy managed through bottom-up democratic cooperation, rather than by either the market or centralized planning. They call this “participatory economics,” or “parecon” for short. Their model involves coordination by councils of workers and consumers to produce an economic plan. I will not go into it now; it is further discussed in Hahnel’s current book. In my opinion, their model has enriched the discussion of what a socialist anarchist society might look like


However, they have written little on the second issue. Having decided on a social goal, then what? Might it be possible to gradually, peacefully, and incrementally evolve through small positive changes from capitalism to antiauthoritarian socialism? Or must a mass movement, eventually, overturn the capitalist class, smash its state — against the will of its agents — dismantling its police, military, and other institutions, and replace them with alternate structures? This is, of course, the topic: Reform or Revolution? It leads to a certain focus on the nature of the state.

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